On Race, Britain Leads the Way

The Black Lives Matter movement has roiled the U.K., just as it has the U.S. In response, Boris Johnson’s British government established a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which issued its report today. One can only imagine what such a report, commissioned by the Biden administration, would look like. Happily, Britain’s commission, staffed mostly by minorities, has gone in a more sensible direction. I haven’t yet seen the complete report online, but the London Times describes it:

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was created by Boris Johnson after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, publishes its 264-page findings on Wednesday.

The report concludes that while Britain is not a “post-racial society”, the success of ethnic minorities in education and the economy should be a “beacon” for other white-majority countries.

I think that is probably true.

The Commission finds that factors such as social class and family structures often explain differences in outcomes for individual ethnic groups rather than racial discrimination. It says that the term “institutional racism” is being used too “liberally” to describe different outcomes, at times without sufficient data.

The Commission warns there are consequences to the misapplication of the term “racism”, as it can falsely give the perception society is “set against” people from ethnic minorities.

Commission Chairman Tony Sewell

This finding is important–something that everyone knows but too few are bold enough to say:

One key line reads: “We found that most of the disparities we examined, which some attribute to racial discrimination, often do not have their origins in racism.”

This is a recommendation we can get behind:

The Commission gives 24 recommendations for the Government. One is “to move away from funding unconscious bias training”, with other ideas such as a mentoring programme suggested.

This is an interesting data point:

The report also says Britain has become a more open society where children from many ethnic communities do at least as well or better than white pupils in compulsory education.

That is also true in the U.S., of course. More:

New analysis commissioned for CRED found that in 2019 GCSE exams, the Black Caribbean group was the only ethnic group who performed lower than White British pupils. Black African pupils performed above the White British average.

The percentage of those from a Black Caribbean background achieving GCSE A*-C in both English and maths is 50.3 per cent, whereas it is 61.8 per cent for White British pupils and 62.7 per cent for Black African pupils.

I will finish with this excerpt from the report:

The part of the report goes on to question whether the term “institutional racism” is used too widely in public discourse, a suggestion sure to be much debated in the coming weeks.

“The term is now being liberally used, and often to describe any circumstances in which differences in outcomes between racial and ethnic groups exist in an institution, without evidence to support such claims,” the report reads.

“The Commission therefore feels that misapplying the term racism has diluted its credibility, and thus undermined the seriousness of racism, where it does exist, in contemporary Britain.

“Where ‘institutional racism’ is used too casually as an explanatory tool, it can also lead to insufficient consideration of other factors which are also known to drive such differences in outcomes.”

It adds that when accusations of institutional racism are levelled against institutions they should be “subject to robust assessment and evidence”.

That is, of course, only common sense. But it is light years ahead of what a similar commission in the U.S. could be expected to come up with.